"Curfew or not, dialogue or not, we stay"

Indigenous leaders have agreed to hold talks with President Lenin Moreno on Sunday, but the massive protest movement that paralyzes the country remains mobilized against rising gas prices and austerity.

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Protesters in the center of Quito, Ecuador, 13 October.
Protesters in the center of Quito, Ecuador, 13 October. HENRY ROMERO / REUTERS

To protest an unprecedented rise in the price of gasoline, Verónica Pastuna came from her village of Zumbagua, in the Cotopaxi region, a three-hour drive from Quito. "President Lenin Moreno talks about dialogue and he sends us the army," said the 47-year-old Indian. But we will not let go. Fidel Acero, 32, who comes from the Kayambi community is equally emphatic. "Curfew or not, dialogue or not, we stay," he said. The standoff between Mr. Moreno – who now governs the city of Guayaquil – and the angry Indians who paralyze the country and occupy Quito has lasted for twelve days.

On Saturday, just before 3 pm, Moreno announced on television the immediate entry into force of a curfew in the capital and its environs, as well as the militarization of the region, in order to "To facilitate the action of the public force in the face of intolerable overflowing violence", said the head of state. A few hours earlier, the leaders of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE) had nevertheless accepted his proposal for a "Direct dialogue" to try to find a negotiated way out of the crisis. The Indians demand the repeal of Decree 883 which caused a jump in diesel prices of 123%.

At the end of the day Saturday, protesters are still several thousand in the center of Quito. Between the tear gas that floats in the air and the flaming tires, El Arbolito Park has evolved into a battlefield. The building of the Contraloria General de la Nacion (which oversees the public administration) is burning in the distance. He was stormed a few hours earlier by a group of masked protesters. The headquarters of Teleamazonas and the daily newspaper El Comercio was also attacked. In total, six people have been killed since protests began, more than 2,000 have been injured, according to the Ecuadorian authorities.

Acts that "discredit the movement"

These images of destruction and their human toll arouse great emotion in a country where demonstrations have always been peaceful. Between 1995 and 2005, Ecuadorians toppled three presidents without a shot.


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